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4 Principles of Taxonomy and Classification: Current Procedures for Naming and Classifying Organisms

Michael Ohl


Taxonomy deals with the naming and classification of organisms and is an integrative part of biological systematics, the science of biodiversity. The information provided by taxonomic research is a fundamental basis for all fields of biology. Current taxonomy focuses on multicharacter integrative approaches, considering all potentially useful sources of information provided by the various fields of biology. The resulting supraspecific classification should be based on the genealogy of organisms, that is, on a phylogenetic analysis, to be objectively testable. However, for pragmatical reasons, a classification based on overall similarity and diagnostically relevant characters might be a heuristically important step in taxonomy and should be perceived as an approximation to a classification tested by phylogenetic methods. The nested levels in a classification of organisms are usually not only named but also ranked, that is, a set of hierarchical terms like genus, family, and class, are applied to reflect the hierarchical structure of the classification. Assigning these so-called Linnaean categories to a classification is (1) a voluntary action to make a classification notionally more easy to access; and (2) a linguistic activity that is done subsequent to obtaining the scientific results of the systematic analysis.

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